Race and stereotypes in Gay culture

by Tony Cox, NPR

Shirley Q. Liquor is a middle-aged black woman who lives in the projects. She’s also the creation of Charles Knipp, a gay, white performer who puts on black face to bring her to life. Some activists are claiming the Shirley Q. Liquor character promotes stereotypes.

But commentator Jasmyne Cannick sees another angle. She says Liquor’s character sheds some light on another issue that’s been in the news lately.

JASMYNE CANNICK: There’s a petition calling for “Grey’s Anatomy” actor Isaiah Washington to be fired for using what all called the other F-word to describe a gay colleague. It’s getting some traction with ABC, so I decided to launch a similar petition, aimed at keeping Washington on the show.

Minutes after posting the link on my Web site, I received dozens of e-mails inquiring why I, a black lesbian, would want to support someone like Washington. Make no mistake about it. To me, that other F-word is just as detrimental and derogatory as the N-word. Moreover, this isn’t about saving Isaiah’s job just because he is a black man.

While it’s no secret that I advocate on behalf of blacks, wrong is wrong, and while Isaiah’s shot at the Golden Globe’s was unfortunate. However, there’s something else going on. For far too long, gay has been synonymous with white power. But the issue of Isaiah Washington’s use of the F-word is not only a gay issue, but a black issue as well.

But the, quote/unquote, “gay mafia” has single-handedly positioned themselves as the experts on what Isaiah’s fate should be. Now, I’m not implying that the gay mafias, all of white gay America. Nevertheless, the gay mafia is the voice and face of the gay community. It’s the reason why people, including black America, think that all gays are white.

The hypocrisy comes from the play with the silence of the gay mafia on one of their own, Charles Knipp. His character Shirley Q. Liquor portrays black women as being on welfare and living in the projects. They’re illiterate, shoplifting, sexually promiscuous mothers who don’t know who their children’s fathers are, alcoholics, and drug addicts. All of which sends a clear message to black America, including black gays, that while they take offense in issue with Isaiah Washington’s use of the F-word, they have nothing to say about Knipp’s use of black face and stereotypes.

Before taking these positions, the gay mafia should have checked with the black gay leadership about where they were. Who knows, they might have found that black gays didn’t support Washington’s being fired, or the onstage antics of Shirley Q. Liquor. Indeed blacks, gay and straight, are working together to educate about Knipp and the Shirley Q. Liquor character.

This led to Knipp’s upcoming performance in Los Angeles being cancelled. This same coalition is now working on a national boycott. Black gays might have had suggestions regarding Isaiah Washington too, or they might have seconded the idea that he be fired.

Sadly, we’ll never know. The agenda, as it is commonly referred to, is largely the brainchild of the gay mafia, which at the end of the day really doesn’t include minority voices.

So by supporting Isaiah Washington I’m not saying I’m OK with his use of the F-word, but I am sending a clear message that the gay mafia doesn’t speak for the entire gay community. If they won’t acknowledge their hypocrisy with Charles Knipp, why should Isaiah Washington lose his job?

via NPR
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